Monday, September 26, 2011

DAN JONES-ING


Hey tell Drew I say Happy Birthday! And also Rebekah. Someone in my English class (we teach English once a week as community service) is named Becca. I love the English names people pick for themselves here. They don't care if the name doesn't match their gender, it is just whatever sounds pretty to them. Like Eugene or Tenor. Anyway, I would write Drew but I don't know where he is. I am assuming it is still Haiti. For some reason I thought he was still somewhere in the States.
Hey so I don't know if there is any way for you to figure this out, but someone should google the population of Toufen for me, I am kind of curious. It is crazy to think that me and my companion are the only elders, really almost the only foreigners in this city, and that our area is even bigger -- about a 45 minute bus ride up into the mountains that includes a bunch of other rural towns we never go to due to inconvenience. We were sitting outside eating dinner a couple of nights ago and I was just looking at all the people and it is crazy that there are only two of us given the responsibility to teach all of them. Really makes you realize how small the Church is.

We rode our bikes to the beach last p day, pretty fun, there was a typhoon right before I got on island so the beaches are kind of ugly right now. Not sure yet what we will do today, maybe go look at these statues of some Buddhist gods over in Zhunan, I am not sure what their names are but they are about a hundred feet tall, pretty cool. Just a sign of how many different gods there are here. There are Buddhist temples all over the place. Our area is more traditional and Buddhist than Taibei, according to my companion. One of the biggest problems right now is that all our investigators don't understand the first commandment. I always thought that as a missionary my investigators would struggle with the word of wisdom or law of chastity, not this. We will tell them that if they know the Book of Mormon is true, they will know that there God is their Heavenly Father, Jesus is their Savior, Joseph Smith is a prophet, and they will totally accept and believe that, but they just don't understand the concept of God having one way. Or more specifically, they think that His one way is every way, that any road will take you where you should go. They have no problem with other things being true in addition to this. It is really difficult to get them to understand why the gospel implies that Christ in not only a good path but the only path. They just don't have the same mindset as westerners who readily accept an "either, or" view of things instead of "this and that both".

I wish you could all be here with me, I want you to experience this place. I say this every week, but the fruit is so great. And I don't think anywhere has nicer people in general. Although the more I go out and talk to people, the more I find that some people really are not nice at all. But still love it so much.

 One thing we do here is called "Dan Jones"ing. It means that you find somewhere where a lot of people are gathered together and can't instantly escape and you get their attention and yell something about the gospel to them all.
 The most common example is at a stoplight, when all the scooters line up waiting for the light to go green. You walk out into the street and have about 30-45 seconds to preach repentance. They have you do this from the first day, good for getting rid of new missionaries nervousness.    Anyway, this week we rode our bikes past a junior high school, all the students (at least 1000) were sitting outside in the courtyard for an assembly or something. We waited till their principal finished and all the kids stood up, and then I got up and stood on the school fence for a Dan Jones, shouted repentance to them all, probably looked pretty ridiculous but who knows, they might have been touched. Just one more way to keep it interesting.

The work is steady, and we definitely have plenty to do. We need some help right now with our investigators,  need to help them develop testimonies and have personal spiritual experiences. But we have a lot of faith in them. This gospel is making real differences in real people's lives. I love it, I feel like the next two years are going to fly by. The language is rough for sure, but I have no doubt I will get it eventually, and so far I have been able to do alright regardless. Thanks for all the support, I love you all so much, especially Drew because he is the birthday boy!

Elder Braithwaite

Monday, September 19, 2011

Adjusting to the Food & Culture


Hey there,
Things are still going great here. This week was definitely interesting. It was the mid autumn festival, a relatively big holiday here, so we were invited over to eat a lot. I've been told missionaries eat so much they can barely move when Chinese new year comes. We went to a couple of ward bbqs in the area, which was fun because we got to get out of the city and up into the mountains a little, so pretty and green.

Had some good/weird stuff, I really liked the grilled bamboo stalks, but the one thing worth mentioning is this strange looking black/dark red nugget on a stick, the other missionaries made me eat it before they would tell me what it was. It was really odd, kind of glued my teeth together. Turns out it was blood --somehow they get it into a gelatinous form to eat.  It tasted/felt about how I would have expected coagulated blood to feel/taste, maybe a little sweeter I guess. Whenever we are invited over to eat, they just won't stop feeding us. Really nice, but just too much food.
 
The little kids here are great, they love to play with us, really think arm hair is cool since they don't often see it. This one boy played with mine for like a half hour straight. Last night after dinner at our branch mission leaders house, he took us up to the floor above him and made us do some karaoke with all his drunk neighbors, which was certainly a funny experience.

I did get my bike - painted it up real ugly.  It is such a blessing to be on a bike mission, I think that is one of my favorite parts so far, just getting to bike around the city or the more rural parts, it really lets you absorb more. 


















 
Work is going fine. Still working hard on the language, it will just take a while. But our investigators are all doing pretty well, we are really pleased with their progression. We are working  hard to increase our teaching pool, which means a lot of street contacting. I think this will be true no matter what area I am in in this mission, because there are always so many people around in these cities. There is nothing more awkward than missionaries, I think. It is so great -- I walk up to strangers and ask, Are you happy today? What are your thoughts on God? I can imagine what I would do if I were Taiwanese and a tall white sweaty guy with an almost unintelligible accent did that to me. I love it though.
   I got to see some pretty cool lessons this week, people really understanding why this might be important. It is interesting, people here don't really think about "deep" things as much as westerners (for the most part),  like the purpose of life, or where we go after death. Mostly they care about what can help them now.
  I went on exchanges with my zone leader, so I had to take a train up to Zhubei, about 30-45 minutes away. The train ride was pretty, we got to look out at the ocean for part of it. It just kind of hit me that China was about 80 miles in that direction. They put you to work so fast, I didn't really have time to sit down and think about where I am. But I am so lucky to be here. I love talking to people, I know that by spreading this message I will be able to help others. I see the blessings it has brought to the members in our little branch here and it makes me feel so happy. A lot of the families live in these dinky little apartments, no nice things, no space, but they are so happy. Just cover the walls with pictures of Jesus or the Temple and you won't notice that they are old and dirty. Still willing to share what they have with the missionaries. A nice reminder of what will really bring happiness. 

   Thanks for all the support and love. If you want to send me everyone else's letters, through email would be best. I love you all so much.
Elder Braithwaite
 


 
From my apartment window
 
Elder Childs & me


Sunday, September 11, 2011

FIRST WEEK IN TAIWAN

Family,
Monday is my P day, but I guess you will be getting these emails Sunday afternoon or evening. Anyway, plan on that.
Taiwan is great so far! The flight over was very long, but it was also a good experience We had a handful of successful contacting experiences.  This one family really loved everthing we had to say, they were so great. And I was happy with the amount of my words Chinese people were able to understand. It is crazy, I talked to a man from mainland China, and he had literally never heard of Jesus Christ. I understand not knowing much about Jesus, but not recognizing the name? I thought maybe they at least knew about that from a history class or something, but nope. That place is nuts.
Anyway, we arrived here, spent a few days in the mission home right next to the temple in Taipei. President Grimley is great, he is going to be a really awesome mission president for me. We got to visit some different places with him, the Chang Kai Shek memorial, Taiwan Mission dedicatory prayer site, etc. Plus we got to contact in the city some, it is crazy there, but so fun. Taipei is just like you would expect any tropical crowded Asian city to be; a million scooters and people and just stuff going on everywhere. The people are what has made it great so far, they are so polite. They will stop and talk with you a lot more often than I expected, and they are never rude. The meanest rejection I have gotten is they pretend like they can't hear you. They really are just kind people here.
My area is Toufen, about two hours southeast of Taipei. Everyone told me I was going out to a rural area, but I found out that just means not as crazy big as Taipei. There are still a million people and buildings and stuff. Our area does include a bunch of the mountainous parts though, so maybe sometimes we'll be out there. My trainer is Elder Childs. So far he has been great, he really knows how to teach and contact and I will be able to learn a lot from him. He happens to be possibly the only other redhead in the mission, so of course we are companions. We live on the seventh floor of a building, right above the strip club owned by the mafia here.
Our little branch here is wonderful, I love them already. I got up on Sunday to introduce myself and bear testimony and I couldn't help but smile.  As I'm speaking my awful Chinese there is a sea of Asian people just smiling up at me, trying to encourage me, giving thumbs up and just being so friendly. All the kids want to play with me and the people will sit by me and tell me how good my language is.  I think kindness comes before honesty here sometimes, but that's okay. Today we are going to some sort of barbeque with our members, for the mid autumn festival. Apparently they love to feed the missionaries here too, so don't worry. One man already brought over stinky tofu for me to try, just this hunk of warm tofu in this brown broth stuff. It really wasn't too bad tasting, but it definitely does smell like an open sewer or a garbage disposal or something, just awful.
We have some good investigators, a lot of hope right now. The main difficulty is with the su brother and sister. They are super Buddhist and so they have this belief that everything is good, any good path leads to God, etc., so we need to help them develop faith in Christ. Apparently that is pretty common here, believing that any way is good. If you try to talk to the Buddhist monks they will basically tell you that. This one would not stop talking to us about it -  we had to just walk away. But I have been told I am in a particularly Buddhist area, so I will probably have plenty of experiences with that.
It is still hard to believe I am here. Riding our bikes through the streets and dodging the traffic, just seeing that everything is in Chinese and that I don't know what people are saying to me --  I can't really take it all in but I love it. Definitely haven't stopped sweating since I got here, it has been cloudy and a little rainy, but so warm and humid, pretty much what I was expecting. Food has been good too, it is super cheap so we just eat out every meal, saves time and money and is better than what we could cook ourselves. And don't worry, there is plenty of normal stuff like peanut butter and milk and whatever, so I'll be fine. The fruit is delicious, probably the best part.  There are fruit stands all over the place.
 If anyone wants to write me, my address is just the mission office, and postage should be a 98 cent stamp:

Elder Braithwaite #10642
Taiwan Taibei Mission
4F #24 Lane 183 Jinhua Street
DaAn District Taibei, Taiwan

Okay I feel like I have a million things I could say but that is enough for now. It is going to be a long time before I feel comfortable with all this, it has definitely been humbling to finally get here, but I have faith that I will slowly get better at all this. Thanks for keeping me updated, I am allowed to get and answer emails from family, so feel free to send emails before today for me to read. I love you!

Elder Braithwaite